Kashmir Places to Visit

This blog is for those who are travelling first time to Kashmir and live outside India. Before travelling to Kashmir make sure that you have arranged for lodging and transportation. You will need at least 7 days to do the high lights of Kashmir. You can stay in Srinagar 4 nights, Pahalgam one night and Gulmarg two nights.

Transport: We booked car from one of the know resources. For Innova it should cost you not more than Rs 3500 per day. It is better to book car in advance and get the car information and the driver information before reaching Srinagar. If this is your first time to visit Srinagar, include your pickup and drop off to airport. It is better to use one car than changing every day or using taxis.

Lodging: We stayed in Lalit (it used to be Oberai) and Vivanta Taj in Srinagar. We liked Vivanta better because of location, cleanness and the View. Lalit looks great from outside but inside carpet and beds are not clean, food is good. Other hotels that you can consider are Radisson Srinagar and Sheraton Srinagar. If you would like to stay in houseboat, make sure that you will do good research before selecting one. We did not stay in houseboat because of our personal preference and security reasons.

Boat/Shikara Rides: When you are in Srinagar Shikara ride is must. Best time to do Shikara rides in Dal Lake is either early morning to see sun rise or late in the afternoon to see sun set. When you select the Shikara be careful, sometimes they can charge you lot of money. You should not be paying more than Rs 1500 for 3 hours of ride. You should be able to cover Char Chinari, Nehru Park, Nagin-Lake. Lot of folks will come to sell stuff be careful.

Food: Kashmiri famous dishes are RoganJosh, Kalia, Yakhini, Kaanti, Fish, Lotus Roots (Cooked in different styles), Dum Aloo, Tabuk Naat, Goshtab, Rista, Saffron rice, Bagirkhani (similar to croissant), Talwoor (similar to sesame bagel), etc. I personally never liked Goshtab and Rista because of texture of meat. Most of the Kashmiri dishes pair better with plain basmati rice. If you are staying in good hotels, they will have good food to try. Restaurant I liked this time was Linz Cafe in Srinagar. There Kranti, Fish and Naan was excellent. Make sure you will also try Shakti Sweets. Shakti Sweets was established in 1966, it used to be one of our best places to eat samosas and sweets. During our latest visit in 2023 we went Shakti Sweets, Samosas, biscuits, sweets were delicious. You should definitely try Kahwa (with Almonds & Saffron) and Walnuts in Kashmir.

Beautiful places of Kashmir:

Shankaracharya: You will need 5 to 6 hours to cover this temple. It is shiv temple located on top of hill. You can go in car up to certain point, but you have to climb stairs. Make sure you have good shoes and water bottle with you. You will have to go thru security checkpoint. Best time to visit Shankaracharya is in the morning. You can see whole valley once you reach the temple. Once you visit main Shiv temple, visit also Tapasya Sathal. Take lot of pictures.

Zeethyaar-Jaisthi Devi Temple: You will need 2 to 3 hours to cover this temple. It is another beautiful temple worth visiting. You can go in the car there.

Nishat Bagh (One of Mughal gardens): You will need 3 to 4 hours to cover this beautiful garden. “Nishat Bagh” means “garden of joy”, it is a terraced Mughal Garden built on the eastern side of the Dal Lake, with the Zabarwan Mountains as its backdrop, Nishat Bagh is a garden with views of the lake beneath the Pir Panjal mountain range. The Bagh was designed and built in 1633.

Shalimar Bagh (One of Mughal Gardens): You will need 3 to 4 hours to cover this beautiful garden. Shalimar Bagh is linked through a channel to the northeast of Dal Lake. It is also known as Shalimar Gardens. “Shalimar Bagh” means ‘The Garden of Delight’. The Bagh was built in 1619. The Bagh is considered the high point of Mughal horticulture. It is now a public park and also referred to as the “Crown of Srinagar.”

Harwan Garden: You will need 3 to 4 hours to cover this beautiful garden. Harwan Garden is a picturesque natural garden, extensive picnic spot, situated at a distance of 15 km from Srinagar. A channel from neighboring dam (Dachigam Nallah) passes through the middle of the garden flanked by age old Chinar tree on one side. The garden has neat and clean concrete pathway with arched gates. There are climbing roses that adorn the arched gates and eventually enhanced the beauty of the garden. The attractive flower beds all around the garden can captivate the soul of the visitors. Harwan Garden does not have the usual terraces, artificial fountains, etc. However, it has kept a natural yet mesmerizing charm in its own way. Unlike Mughal Gardens in Srinagar, this garden is less touristy and serene place to spend some peaceful moments amidst natural beauty. Harwan Gardens is considered as the gateway to the Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary. It also serves as the base point for undertaking a trek to adjacent Mahadev Mountain.

Chashmashahi and Chashmashahi Garden (One of the Mughal Gardens): You will need 3 to 4 hours to cover this beautiful garden. It is located on the banks of the lovely Dal Lake and is hence a very picturesque area perfect for spending an afternoon or evening in. This garden has pretty little gazebos that you can sit in to admire the view. The flowers and plants are wonderfully arranged, and it is a delight to walk down the grey paths in the midst of such great beauty. Architecture of this garden is Persian style with lovely Fountains.

Pari mahal: You will need 3 to 4 hours to cover this amazing ruin. Pari Mahal also known as The Palace of Fairies, is a seven-terraced garden located at the top of Zabarwan mountain range, overlooking the city of Srinagar and the south-west of Dal Lake. The Pari Mahal is a lovely ruin that is known for the stunning views of the Dal Lake, the mountains and hills and Srinagar city that this place provides. Here are some of the pictures:

Hari Parvat Fort: You will need 4 to 5 hours to cover this fort and visit all the shrines. Hari Parbat is a majestic mountain overlooking the city of Srinagar. The mountain also has various Hindu and Muslim shrines and even a Gurudwara here. Building of this fort was started in 1500 and completed in 1700. You can see the whole valley of Srinagar from this Fort.

Sharika Devi Temple: The Sharika Devi Temple is situated on westerns slope of the Hari Parvat Fort in Srinagar. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Jagadamba Sharika Bhagwati, an incarnation of Mata Durga/ Shakti. The idol inside the temple has 18 arms and is regarded as the presiding deity of the Srinagar by Hindu followers. This temple is regarded as one of the most sacred sites by Kashmiri Pandits, this day is celebrated as Har Navum. The shrine is thronged with devotees in large number on the birthday of Sharika Bhagwati. They offer a special offering locally termed as ‘Taher Charvan’ (A dish of boiled rice with turmeric, oil and salt and another dish is of cooked liver of goat) to the goddess. When you visit Hari Parvat Fort visit this temple after you come back from fort.

Dal Lake: Dal is a lake in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, India. It is an urban lake, the second largest lake in Jammu and Kashmir, and the most visited place in Srinagar by tourists and locals. It is integral to tourism and recreation in the Kashmir valley and is variously known as the “Lake of Flowers”, “Jewel in the crown of Kashmir” or “Srinagar’s Jewel”.The lake is also an important source for commercial operations in fishing and water plant harvesting. The shoreline of the lake, about 15.5 kilometers (9.6 mi), is encompassed by a boulevard lined with Mughal era gardens, parks, houseboats and hotels. Scenic views of the lake can be witnessed from the shoreline Mughal gardens, such as Shalimar Bagh and Nishat Bagh built during the reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir, and from houseboats cruising along the lake in the colorful Shikaras. During the winter season, the temperature can sometimes reach as low as −11 °C (12 °F), freezing the lake. The lake covers an area of 18 square kilometers (6.9 sq mi) and is part of a natural wetland which covers 21.1 square kilometers (8.1 sq mi), including its floating gardens. The floating gardens, known as “Rad” in Kashmiri, blossom with lotus flowers during July and August. The wetland is divided by causeways into four basins; GagribalLokut DalBod Dal and Nigeen (although Nigeen is also considered as an independent lake). Lokut Dal and Bod Dal each have an island in the center, known as Rupa Lank (or Char Chinari) and Sona Lank respectively.

Char Chinari: Char Chinar, also sometimes called Char Chinari, Ropa Lank, or Rupa Lank, is an island in Dal Lake, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. Dal Lake includes 3 islands, 2 of which are marked with beautiful Chinar trees. The island located on the Lakut Dal (small Dal) is known as Roph Lank (Silver Island), is marked with the presence of majestic Chinar trees at the four corners, thus known as Char-Chinari.

Nehru Park: Nehru Park is inside Dal Lake in the name of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru first Prime minister of India.

Lalchowk: Lal Chowk (lit. ‘Red Square‘) is a city square in Srinagar. The square was given its name by left-wing activists who were inspired by the Russian Revolution as they fought the princely state ‘s Maharaja, Hari Singh. It has traditionally served as a place for political meetings, with Jawaharlal Nehru (the firs first Prime Minister of India) and Sheikh Abdullah, as well as other prominent political leaders having addressed people from it. The clock tower (Ganta ghar) at Lal Chowk was built in 1980. The Lal Chowk precinct stretches on both the sides of the Residency Road between the Amira Kadal bridge and the Tyndale Biscoe School. It has evolved into Srinagar’s main business district from early twentieth century. Before 1980, it used to be place where people will eat chat, samosa and other snacks. Santram was famous for chat, aloo tiki, rasmali, chole Batura. It used to be my favorite place to eat snacks on Fridays before going the movie. But during my recent visit to Srinagar that place is not there anymore. In last 2 decades lot of arsenious incidents have happened here, be cautious when you visit there. Have a drive on the road in car.

Regal Chowk: Regal Chowk is another place in Srinagar where you can walk, shop and eat. Some of the famous eating place located in Regal Chowk is Shakti Sweets. There used to be cinema theatre in Regal chowk but that has been replaced with high end mall.

Kheer Bawani: Temple is 15.1 miles from Srinagar. You will need good half day to drive from Srinagar and visit this temple. Kheer Bhawani Temple is a celebrated Hindu shrine, situated in the Tulla Mulla village near Srinagar. The temple is constructed above a sacred spring, which is said to change its colors. Goddess Ragna Devi – an incarnation of Goddess Durga – is the presiding deity of this temple. The temple attributes its unique name to the famous Indian dessert kheer, which is the main offering to the goddess. Maharaja Pratap Singh built this temple in 1912, which was later renovated by Maharaja Hari Singh. The shrine has a hexagonal spring and a small marble shrine where the goddess’ idol is installed. According to legends, Lord Rama worshipped the goddess during his exile. He expressed his desire of shifting the holy seat to Shadipora, which was fulfilled by Lord Hanuman. The temple was shifted to its present site after the goddess appeared in the dream of a local pundit named Rugnath Gadroo. On the eighth day of the full moon in May, devotees gather at the Kheer Bhawani Temple and observe fasts. It is believed that Goddess Ragnya changes the spring’s color on this auspicious day. If the color changes to black, it is considered a bad omen that would result in a disaster in the valley. The temple organises fairs and yagnas during its annual festival and navratras, which attract a large number of devotees. Hawans on Shukla Paksh Ashtami are also common in this temple. The temple area has old-growth chinar trees beneath which the pilgrims sit or sleep on mats of grass. The Kheer Bhawani mela or festival sees the annual congregation of Kashmiri Hindus, and other pilgrims and tourists. The mela is during Jyeshtha Ashtami, also spelt as ‘Zyeshta Astami’. When you visit this temple make sure you will eat liche (Kind of friend thin naan), Kashmiri Kahwa, Soji Halwa, Nadur Monji (Lotus roots fried fritter) and Kheer.

Durgah: Hazratbal Dargah is a beautiful shrine located in the city of Srinagar. The white building sitting right next to the Dal Lake with a large garden on its other side presents a charming sight, especially in the mornings and the evenings. It is located quite close to Shalimar Garden, and Nishat Garden, hardly a 10 minutes’ drive. So, you can easily cover all these places together. The shrine is also home to thousands of pigeons. In the morning, before the market opens and the road gets a bit crowded, it is really fun to be there and watch the pigeons fly by. There are also a few shops in front of the shrine where you can buy some seeds and feed the pigeons.

Pulwama: Pulwama is very close to my heart. My village Murran is just 2.2 KM from Pulwama. This used to be main place to do shopping and commute with another place. We did go to Murran this time but the whole thing has changed. Refer to my other post “Visiting My Childhood Home“. I will highly recommend not to visit this place unless you have to. Another famous village next to Murran is Mitrigam. Kashmiri famous poet “Mahjoor” was born and raised in Mitrigam. We had very close relation with Mehjoor family. Mahjoor used to be very close to my grandfather. In Kashmir you will see lots of colonies, museums, and bridges with Mahjoor name. During our visit to Linz Cafe in Srinagar we had a chance to meet Mehjoor’s great grandson.

Kokernag: You will need 7 to 8 hours to enjoy kokernag. Kokernag is another beautiful and attractive tourist destination in Kashmir. It is located in Anantnag district, at a distance of about 70 km from Srinagar. The place has splendid natural beauty which is serene and calm. The place is blessed with some gorgeous natural beauty. Various rare varieties of plants and flowers are found here. The favorite being the garden that surrounds the spring. Waterfall is a beautiful attraction for the tourists. However, the most important tourist attraction is the Papa-shudan Nag, the sulphureous spring believed to possess magical powers of healing. The water is known for its digestive properties and other medical importance. There is a botanical garden laid in Kokernag as well, which has become very popular with the tourists and the locals as well. The garden has a number of flowers, plants and trees in it. It is set against the backdrop of high alpine forests, where you can find some rare animals.

Sonamarg: You will need full day to enjoy Sonamarg. Best time to visit this place is in summer. The hill station is situated in the Kashmir Valley, at an altitude of 2,730 meters (8,960 ft) and is close to some of the valley’s tallest peaks, alongside the Machoi Glacier, Sirbal Peak, Kolahoi Peak, Amarnath Peak and Machoi Peak. Combined with the alpine meadows that bloom in the summer as well as rivers and lakes stocked with fish, Sonamarg is a notable tourist destination in Jammu and Kashmir. Sonamarg had historical significance as a gateway on the ancient Silk Road, connecting Kashmir with Tibet. Today, the hill station is a popular tourist destination amongst fishers and hikers.

Pahalgam: You will need 2 full days to enjoy Pahalgam. You should visit Betab-Valey, Chandanwari, Aru-Valey, Mamleshwar-Temple, Mutton Temple and Martand-Mandir. Pahalgam is a town and a notified area committee, near Anantnag city in the Anantnag district in Kashmir. It is a popular tourist destination and hill station. Its lush green meadows and pristine waters attract thousands of tourists from all over the world each year. It is located 45 kilometers (28 mi) from Anantnag on the banks of Lidder River at an altitude of 7,200 feet (2,200 m). Pahalgam is associated with the annual pilgrimage to the shrine Amarnath Yatra. Chandanwari, located 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) from Pahalgam. The town is the starting point of the yatra that takes place every year in the months of July–August, receiving hundreds of thousands of tourists. Because of its religious significance and role as a base camp, the town attracts 70% of visitors to the valley. This flood of tourists overwhelms some of the local infrastructure, especially waste management in the town. We stayed in Royal Hilton Hotel, very good hotel.

Gulmarg: You will need 2 full days to enjoy Gulmarg. Gulmarg (means ‘meadow of flowers’) in Kashmiri, is a town, hill station, popular tourist destination, popular skiing destination and a notified area committee in the Baramulla district in the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It is located at a distance of 31 km (19 mi) from Baramulla and 49 km (30 mi) from Srinagar. The town is situated in the Pir-Panjal-Range in the Western Himalayas and lies within the boundaries of Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary. When driving form Srinagar to Gulmarg, you will see Tangmarg on your way. Best hotel to stay in Gulmarg is Khyber. If you cannot get reservation in Khyber then try to get in ShawnInn. Places to visit Kongdori, Apharwat, Death-Valley and Mahalakshmi Temple. Kongdori is a bowl-shaped area that lies between Gulmarg and the summit on the Apharwat mountain range. It draws skiers and snowboarders from across the country and parts of the world. Kongdori is a station or stop during the Gulmarg-Gandola Cable-Car ride, which is said to be the largest and highest cable car project in Asia. The Kongdori station is located at an elevation of 8,530 ft and the second leg of the ride takes people to the Apharwat mountain top, lying at a height of 13,500 ft. One can catch sweeping and magnificent views of the Nanda-Devi-Peak and the Pir-Panjal-Range along the way. The ride from Gulmarg to Kongdori takes about 10 minutes and from Kongdori to Apharwat takes 12 minutes. When you will reach Kongdori , enjoy the walk on snow. There are numerous eating places, make sure you will have hot Kashmiri kahwa, paneer pakora and halwa. After couple of hours in Kongdori proceed to Apharwat. You will have to buy Gondola tickets online for both phase 1 and phase 2. You will also need snowshoes to go to Kongdori and Apharwat. You can rent snowshoes in Gulmarg for Rs100 each pair.

Aharbal: You will need full day to enjoy Aharbal. During our childhood years we used to go every year to Aharbal for school picnic. When I visited in 2023, I wanted to visit Aharbal to refresh my childhood memories. I will not recommend going there now because roads to Aharbal are very bad and also for the security reasons. Aharbal, located at 7434 feet (2266 m) is a small hill station in Kashmir located in Kulgam district, about 70 km from Srinagar city. The place is known for the famous Aharbal Waterfall. Aharbal is located on the River Veshav. The rumble of fierce white water gushing through, amplified by the tranquil environs, are like beats of nature that merge into a pool of calm, azure blue water, after the 25-meter fall.

Mansbal Lake: You will need half day to enjoy Manasbal. Mansbal Lake is a freshwater lake located in Safapora area of Ganderbal.  The lake is encircled by four villages: Jarokbal, Kondabal, Nesbal (situated on the north-eastern side of the lake) and Gratbal. The large growth of Lotus at the periphery of the lake (blooms during July and August) adds to the beauty of the clear waters of the lake. The Mughal Garden, called the Jaroka Bagh, (meaning bay window) built by Nur Jahan overlooks the lake. You can enjoy sunset there in Shikara ride.

11 thoughts on “Kashmir Places to Visit”

  1. Wow…an amazing summary full of helpful suggestions and extremely useful information for the first time visitors. My kids want to see Kashmir. Hopefully we can all visit as family.
    Thank you so much Usha for your time and effort .
    Anjali Bhutani

  2. Very informative & detailed description of places I went in1975 but must be lots of beautiful changes in valley ,would love to go for sure after reading this article. Thanks for sharing usha ji

  3. WOW …. Beautiful description Usha.
    Thanks for sharing your experience with all.It was nostalgic & brought my childhood memories back.
    Hopefully I will be visiting soon & definitely seek your guidance.

  4. What a wonderful, detailed description of all the sights of Kashmir! And so many useful travel tips from a native, too. You have inspired me to move Kashmir to the top of my bucket list. Godwilling, we can make it happen soon, and I will surely reach out to you for more tips when we do.

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